Arnold Ma chats to Bessie Lee

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In this episode, Arnold Ma chats to Bessie Lee, formerly the CEO of WPP China and Group M, a China marketing guru in her own right, about her experience, tips and predictions of doing marketing in and to China.

Arnold addresses 3 main topics: The difference between Chinese and Western marketing (strategy), Chinese creativity, and marketing technology in China and the West.

Bessie, currently the Founder and CEO and Angel Investor of Withinlink, a China-based start-up incubator and early-stage venture fund has over 30 years of experience in the media communications industry in Greater China, exclusively across a number of WPP companies. As CEO of WPP China, beginning in 2013, she was responsible for 14,000 employees and more than $1 billion in annual revenue.


0:38 An intro to Bessie and her extraordinary career

6:30 Who censors and what do they censor? The shift of censorship from the Chinese government to the Chinese people.

9:54 Is there a difference between marketing in China vs in the West? (Marketing principles vs platforms and innovation)

14:08 How consumers in Beijing and Shanghai are different to those in lower-tier cities

15:04 Why China presents the unique opportunity to re-start a brand from scratch

16:02 The difference between Western and Chinese decision-making processes and why China is ahead of the game

19:15 Advice for smaller brands entering China

22:15 China is no less creative than the West – what is Chinese creative?

23:51 China’s absence from Cannes Lion and why the West should broaden their categories and go to China to discover Chinese creative

27:00 Why there should be more Chinese award entries and Western brands should work with Chinese agencies to create outstanding work

28:05 The challenges with marketing technology and integrating data in China

28:27 Why the biggest obstacle to innovation is not data or technology, but it’s people and their relationship with change and automation

31:28 Why there has been a lack of change and automation in the agency industry in the last 40 years

33:26 Why appointing a Chief Technology Officer is a big mistake and the responsibility to innovate should lie within everyone in the business

34:12 The most disruptive MarTech in China right now: Bessie’s example of a Chinese marketing research technology that can save you months, even years

39:39 Why brands often go with the safe choice, not the right choice

41:54 What’s the future? Why Chinese AI is a “national movement” and the biggest thing to watch out for in 2020

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